“Freedom of Information under Pressure”

International Conference

Official website: http://freedom-of-information.info/

Kuppelsaal of Vienna University of Technology
Karlsplatz 13, 1040 Vienna, 4th floor


For inquiries in German: Peter Fleissner, fleissner@arrakis.es
For inquiries in English: Dimitris Tsapogas, dimitrios.tsapogas@univie.ac.at

This event will gather more than 30 international speakers (academics, media practitioners, librarians, experts of open culture and public space, activists and policy makers) from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom, and will call for an open discussion on the challenges of freedom of information in the light of the recent surveillance revelations and the increase in censorship and prosecutions of media, journalists and whistle-blowers in Europe and beyond.


The University of Vienna, transform!at and the Critical Librarians Association (KRIBIBI) invite you to the International Conference “Freedom of Information under Pressure. Control – Crisis – Culture”, which will take place in Vienna on 28 February and 1 March 2014. The event has been endorsed and supported by the Mayor of Vienna as well as by a number of organisations, such as the Association of European Journalists, the Centre for Freedom of the Media of the University of Sheffield, the International Press Insitute and the University of Westminster. transform! europe is one of the main sponsors.

Background and theme of the conference:

Meanwhile, we have been experiencing a general increase in media and journalism censorship in Europe, where freedom of information is under pressure. In the crisis hit country of Greece for instance, journalists are often threatened and prosecuted by public and private institutions and organisations. One notorious case was that of the Greek Public Service Broadcaster, ERT, which was brutally shut down by the Greek government, laying off around 2,600 employees and causing an international public outcry. Another case was that of the investigative journalist, Kostas Vaxevanis, who was prosecuted for publishing the so-called “Lagarde’s List”, which contained over 2,000 names of Greeks, alleged to have bank accounts in Switzerland.

The right of access to information can promote citizens civic and political participation by raising their levels of trust to political and policy making institutions, while it can fight phenomena such as lobbying and corruption. Open access to public knowledge and scholarly research is also crucial for the continuous education of the broader public and professionals, the promotion of cultural diversity and the preservation of the historic and collective memory. However, the potentials created by access to information and public knowledge are hampered by various, complex, technical and legal barriers and their success is heavily dependent on governements’ willingness to adopt laws for transparency and access to information but also on citizens’ ability to claim such conditions of access and to demand accountability.

The conference aims to explore the following urgent questions:

What is the state of media and journalism freedom currently in Europe? What are the differences and the similarities between European countries? What is the relationship between security policies and press freedom? What do we know about electronic surveillance and why does it threaten democracy? What is the relationship between security, privacy, data protection and surveillance? How can we take advantage of the new information and communication technologies, without giving away fundamentals freedoms, such as the right to privacy? How can the rights of creators be secured without hampering cultural and scientific progress and interchange? What is the role of researchers, publishers, libraries and archives in the promotion of a free culture of information and knowledge? What role can commons-based peer production play in reforming current copyrights laws? What has to be done in order for decision-making processes and their results in policy and administration to be more transparent? What are the challenges for policy makers, NGOs and advocates of digital rights, privacy, freedom of information and open access? What are the technological, legal, educational and political strategies for resistance to the spread of societies of censorship, surveillance and control?

The Organising Committee is interested in dynamic panel debates and dialogue and the development of synergies as an outcome of the event. In addition, by setting the event open to the wider public the conference aims to stimulate the public discussion and suggest a new agenda on Freedom of Information issues for policy makers, media practitioners, organisations and civic society actors.


· The event is public, open to everyone and free but registration is essential. If you would like to attend, you can register here. Light lunch, coffee and refreshments will be provided.

· The official language of the conference will be English, simultaneous interpretation to/and from other languages is going to be arranged.

· The conference will be filmed and shared online afterwards, as well as streamed live.


The programme of the conference is being updated regularly, please visit us again for the latest information at: http://freedom-of-information.info/

Friday, 28 February 2014

14:00 – 14:30 Registration

14:30 – 15:00 Welcome and Opening Address

  • Walter Baier (Coordinator, transform! europe)
  • Helmut Scholz (Member of the European Parliament, GUE/NGL)

15:00 – 15:45 Main Keynote Address

  • Gill Phillips (Director of Editorial Legal Service, The Guardian, United Kingdom)

15:45 – 16:15 Plenary Address

  • Augustine Zenakos (Investigative Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)
  • Mariniki Alevizopoulou (Investigative Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)

16:15 – 16:30 Coffee break

16:30 – 18:30 Panel Discussion “Media and Journalism under Pressure”

  • Moderator: Eric Frey (Editor, Der Standard, Austria)
  • William Horsley (Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists)
  • Barbara Trionfi (Press Freedom Manager, International Press Institute)
  • Susanne Scholl (Journalist, Austria)
  • Kostas Arvanitis (Journalist, Greece)
  • Stanka Tosheva (Editor in Chief of Capital, Bulgaria)
  • Harald Schumann (Investigative journalist, Germany)

18:30 – 19:00 Closing Plenary Address

  • Erich Möchel (Journalist, ORF, Austria)


Saturday, 1 March 2014

10:00 – 10:30 Plenary Address

  • Christian Fuchs (Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster, UK): “Social Media, the Internet, (Un-)Freedom and the Public Sphere in Times of Crisis”

10:30 – 12:30 Panel Discussion “Surveillance and Whistle-Blowing”

  • Moderator: Dimitris Tsapogas (Scholar, University of Vienna, Austria)
  • Minas Samatas (Professor, University of Crete, Greece)
  • Miyase Christensen (Professor, Stockholm University, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, London School of Economics, UK)
  • Sebastian Sevigniani (Scholar, Univesity of Jena, Germany)
  • Christian Fuchs (Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster, UK)

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 14:00 Plenary Address

  • Joachim Losehand (Scholar, VIBE!at, Austria)

14:00 – 15:30 Panel Discussion “Right of Access to Information and Public Knowledge”

  • Moderator: To be announced soon
  • Nikolaus Hamann (Vienna Public Libraries, KRIBIBI, Austria)
  • Josef Barth (Transparenzgesetz, Austria)
  • Antonis Broumas (Attorney at law, Digital Liberation Network, Greece)
  • Lisa Schilhan (VÖB, University of Graz, Austria)
  • Markus Blümel (Catholic Social Academy, Austria)

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee break

15:45 – 16:15 Plenary Address

  • George Katrougalos (Professor, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece)

16:15 – 18:15 Panel Discussion “Reform: Policy and Advocacy“

  • Moderator: Marianne Schulze (Liga für Menschrechte, Austria)
  • Jaqueline Harrison (Professor, Centre for Freedom of the Media, UK)
  • Spideralex (Hacktivist, Catalonia)
  • Kostas Efimeros (Publisher, The Press Project, Greece)
  • Arne Hintz (Lecturer, University of Cardiff, UK)
  • Andreas Krisch (Advocate, European Digital Rights, Belgium)
  • George Katrougalos (Professor, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece)

18:15 – 18:30 Coffee break

18:30 – 19:00 Plenary Address

  • Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Professor, Vienna University of Technology, Austria)

19:00 – 19:15 Closing Statement

  • Peter Fleissner (President, transform!at, Austria)